Max McLean's life has been a living hell for the better part of the last decade, earning him rave reviews.
The founder of the Fellowship for the Performing Arts brings his adaptation of author C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters to the Ohio Theatre Oct. 12 and 13. McLean also portrays the book's main character, Screwtape, a fully evil representation of Satan whose only goal is to drive mortals to the fiery slumbers of the underworld.
"Fictional evil is so much fun to play," says McLean, who started acting to overcome his sociophobia, or a fear of being in front of others. "You really need to have a believable character to understand the machinations of the enemy of your soul."
The book, published in 1942, is a clever, reverse-psychology inspection of religious forces at work. It's written as a series of letters from Screwtape to his nephew Wormwood, instructing the corruption of The Patient (representing mankind). The performance features Screwtape dictating his letters of iniquity, from the bowels of hell to the unseen Wormwood, and the manner in which those efforts ultimately fail.
"[The Patient] goes from indifferent about spiritual things to becoming quite devout," says McLean. "This is in spite of all the efforts of Screwtape, who's really good at his job, and that's of course because of Lewis' point that there is another unseen character, Screwtape's enemy: God."
While it was obviously McLean's religious convictions that led to him adapting the play, his motives are only to entertain and allow the message to manifest itself.
"I think audiences really like to be challenged intellectually," says McLean. "I think the theater is a really good place to explore these kind of issues. It's a safe place to engage in what I think are really profound ideas about good and evil, right and wrong, heaven and hell."